For many mamas, returning to work after having a baby is fraught with uncertainty, feelings of stress and the dreaded inner dialogue saying, “how can I juggle it all?”. It’s no wonder that a reported 43% of women don’t return to work post-baby. What if job-sharing was something that more companies were open to? Would it ease the work-life balance that so many of us strive to achieve? For Jen Siegert and Jill Novara, they designed a job as Co-Heads of Sales for luxury lifestyle destination, COVETEUR that sounds nothing short of dreamy (and efficient!). We caught up with the busy mamas to learn more about how they worked with their CEO to develop the job, what responsibilities they divvy up and their combined desire to have it all. Read on…
Ladies, we are so excited to be talking to you, we’ve been big fans of COVETEUR for as long as we can remember! Tell us a little bit about yourselves and your unique combined roll at the company.
Jen Siegert: I was hired at COVETEUR 3 years ago when the company moved to NY to head up the sales and marketing team. We have grown from a team of 3 to 11 people over the past few years and have tripled our revenue since I started. After I had my daughter I was struggling with the thought of going back to work full-time in an industry that is extremely demanding and stressful. However, I also wasn’t ready to walk away from my career that I spent so many years building. All the stars aligned for both Jill, myself and the company when we came up with the job share scenario. This isn’t a new concept in our industry, although it has become a lot less common over the years, but what is so unique about our situation is that we are able to co-manage a team and somehow always be on the same page. We actually never even worked together in the office before I suggested this to Jill, who was my maternity fill in at the time, but I knew from the start that we would make a great team.
Jill Novara: After working at Conde Nast for many years I was intrigued by the opportunity to work in a purely digital environment. Jen hired me at COVETEUR in October of 2016 to cover as the Head of Sales when she went out on maternity leave. I was running the team in her absence for about four months, and at one of our regular status meetings, Jen asked if I wanted to approach our CEO and Co-Founders about the concept of a job share. I loved the idea because it would enable me to spend more time with my daughter, who was two years old at the time. I had seen other job share roles when I was at Glamour and observed what it would take to make them successful. Jen and I were both so hard working and always on the same page – I knew from the beginning it would be a great partnership!
We love it (and are admittedly a little envious!). This sounds like a dream situation for a mama wanting to balance career and motherhood. What has been the best part about sharing a job?
Jen: Exactly that, the balance! It’s amazing to have a situation where you feel like you are both a working woman and a full-time mom (at least part of the week)! We speak to moms all the time who work part time but feel like they can never disconnect and fully enjoy their time home with their kids. Because we share one email account, on the days we are not working we know the other person is answering all emails so that nothing falls through the cracks. It also helps that we have full confidence in each other are both extremely type A.
What are your hours and what are the tactical parts of how the job is divided? Are you each responsible for a different aspect of the role or do you share all responsibilities evenly?
Jen: Jill works Mon – Wed and Jen works Wed-Fri so we have one day in the office together. Wednesdays are absolutely insane! We essentially share the same Job of overseeing the entire sales and marketing teams and growing our revenue but we definitely play to our strengths and different experience. For example, Jill comes from a marketing background which has been extremely beneficial. We also both have relationships in different categories so our rolodex of contacts goes wide and deep.
Why do you think this situation is so beneficial to your company?
Jill: This is a situation that unfortunately many companies do not consider when they are recruiting talent. The reason our CEO and Co-Founders were open to trying this setup was because they worked with us each individually and recognized that we brought very unique strengths to the table. They didn’t want to lose such strong talent, with a proven track record of increasing sales quarter after quarter. The benefits of exploring this role to the company is that they essentially get two minds for the price of one, i.e., we bring different strengths, client relationships and POVs to the table. Our team has two different people to speak to and we can focus on different initiatives that play to our strengths and bring new opportunities to the company.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to explore a similar arrangement within their own companies?
Jill: Do not be afraid to ask your employer if they would be open to a job share. When you approach your Manager, approach the conversation with someone in mind to share the role, and list benefits the company would receive if they are open to trying it.
Is there anything that is tricky about a job share?
Jill: The hardest part of our situation is our fear of letting the other person down and not burdening our team or the company with our situation. As a result, we work a lot harder so that we never leave extra work for the other one and have very detailed status meetings and reports. We know how fortunate we are to be in this situation and we work hard to make sure that it is working for everyone.
So many women choose to stay home after having kids because their work place is just not flexible and/or conducive to a mother’s schedule. How do you see corporate America changing in the next 5 – 10 years?
Jen: The problem with the inflexibility for mothers is that the workforce is losing amazing women who would probably have continued working if they could find an acceptable work/life balance. Luckily there are many factors that we hope will contribute to a shift in the workplace for mother’s including the ability to work from anywhere, the women’s movement that is happening in the US right now and the overall mindset of the younger Millennial generation and their focus on work/life balance. Companies are going to have to change to be better aligned with modern realities and realize that offering flexibility allows them to attract and retain the best talent. We hope for our daughter’s sake that things will change and that we are setting a good example.
Jen, you shared that you guys have tripled the revenue at your company and lead a team of 12 (impressive!). What do you think is your “secret sauce”?
The secret sauce is working hard for not only the company, our team but for each other. I (Jill) never want to leave too many emails unread or problems unresolved for Jen when she comes into the office on Wednesday and I know Jen does the same for me when she finishes the day on Friday. Our inbox never has more than 10 unread emails! Who can say that these days? In addition to this, we have seen significant revenue growth due to the fact that we bring different relationships, approaches and strengths to the table. Why pay for one brain when you can get two brains for almost the price of one?
How have you maintained your friendship while working so closely together?
Jen: I think we have become closer as we have worked together. We recognize that its very unique to find someone you can work so closely with and whose company you also enjoy, in and out of the office. It also helps that our husbands like each other, so doing things together beyond just the 2 of us is fun for everyone.
Soak up every moment and try to have laugh as much as possible – the time flies by so quickly.
Take time for yourself and don’t forget to spend some alone time with your husband.
Don’t compare yourself to others and remember no one is perfect. Focus on trying to be your best self!
The time with your children goes by quickly, be present and enjoy each moment.
Be the example you want your kids to follow.
Read the book, "The Blessing of a Skinned Knee".
Photos by Alec Kugler.